Wrestler blossoms from the bud of Stem as the Wellington agency revamps

Last week agency Stem Creative topped off its transition to Wrestler by opening the doors of its office-turned-gallery, a place where creatives can boost their ingenuity by painting, cycling and dancing. Oh, and there is always a beer in the fridge. 

Stem Creative made its name producing corporate video content and filming premiere cultural events in Wellington (and also making a satirical web series about the ad industry) but with the move to Wrestler it has changed direction and has set its hopes on becoming one of New Zealand’s leading creators of branded content.

Wrestler wants to take advantage of the growing online video platform and provide solutions to companies or brands that need big ideas turned around quickly and executed flawlessly at lower cost than the creative industry has traditionally been able to offer.

Founder Ben Forman says Wrestler’s small team, wide skill-set and advanced equipment and software can make the production process efficient, while at the same time producing top quality work.

“There are plenty of people out there that can make a decent video so for us the move to Wrestler is about doing more carefully crafted video. We’ve spent the last five years on this space so we know it very well and were keen to take those lessons and we’ve built a team around us who are highly creative.”

As well as putting an emphasis on its production process, Wrestler wants to make a name for itself as an entertainment agency, evidence of which is found in its slogan ‘Entertainment for Brands’. Forman says that doesn’t mean slapstick comedy, it means creating content that people want to watch and engage with.

This is the approach Wrestler took when creating a video to celebrate its rebrand, which Forman says came from the idea of “why don’t we play like we used to?”

“It’s what is now the narration of the video which is sort of along the lines of ‘let’s just forget all the bullshit that society tells us to do’ and we need to, and we need to say ‘let’s just go out there and do some awesome shit and make some cool, creative stuff’ because that’s going to give you the best creative outcome in whatever you do,” he says.

“Obviously, visually we wanted it to tell a story that would sort of match that and then the wrestling thing worked really well with that and our name is Wrestler so badda-bing-bada-boom.”

The idea of ‘play’ is not only represented in the creative content, it begins as soon as you arrive at the Wrestler studio on Jessie Street in Wellington.

Forman describes it as an environment that “people can play in and just be creative”.

Internally it is a huge space that facilitates dancing, bike riding and theatre sports to spark the imagination and includes a hobby section, where Forman will be building a motorbike and others can paint.

Another office bonus is that there’s always a full beer fridge thanks to its client Garage Project.

Adding to the creative inspiration are walls full of art, sourced through a partnership with Wellington’s Suite Gallery. As well as pieces by artists, including Fiona Pardington, the space features two large scale pieces, one being a bright block pattern portrait of Jean Batten. Forman says the piece symbolises Wrestler’s pioneering spirit but follows it up by saying: “We didn’t give that to ourselves, that was Wayne’s idea, we’re not that into ourselves.”

His humble attitude toward the image reflects the way Wrestler has grown from its one-man band beginning.

Forman started producing web videos in 2008, during an internship with Tangible Media. He says at the time, YouTube was only three years old and the web video platform was still in its infancy. But as he worked to turn articles into videos, he realised that it was going to be massive.

Excited by the potential, Forman pursued it at university before creating his company five years ago which saw him take on the roles of several people, including that of director and producer.

As work increased in volume and size he started bringing in contractors to work with him and the company evolved into Stem Creative which was responsible for campaigns for Trade Me, IRD and Kiwibank.

The transformation to Wrestler began last year when Forman saw there was a need for its clients to stand out and create content that stood out from the crowd.

“I guess when we started, having a video on your website or a social media video was sort of unique in in itself and that was enough to propel you ahead … now that’s just not good enough.”

As part of the move, Forman got an A-team together, including creatives Kat Lintott and Glen Puklowski (who both starred in the satirical web series).

He wanted a team that could have any project thrown at it and be able to make it work and come up with something great.

The entire team is made up of seven members with six in Wellington and one in Auckland. The small team is Wrestler’s key, with Forman saying any more and it would start to lose communication lines and have to implement processes that can slow everything down.

While the Wrestler identity developed, the agency established what Forman describes as some “really solid” clients including, Trade Me, Garage Project and Contact Energy, and with the rebrand he hopes to attract more. But Forman doesn’t want to be a poacher. Instead Wrestler considers itself a “complementary agency”, for clients who have a campaign driven by online video content.

He says Wrestler is not an agency looking for clients that want work done on branding or a TVC.

“We’ve sort of carved out our niche in that in-between section of the one-man band and the TVC, we are like the space in between of the high quality creative web content.”

Forman says there are differences in the way content is produced for online and TV because unlike TVCs, web videos needs to be made with user behaviour in mind..

“For example we will craft a video completely differently depending on whether it’s being featured on Facebook versus someone’s website. If you are on Facebook and you want to get people to watch your video then you have to think about the fact that they don’t want to watch your video, they are just scrolling through their feed and they are going to stumble upon it so you need to grab and get their attention and get in and out.”

He says videos to go on Facebook have to work without audio because of the autoplay function whereas videos on a website can have sound because the viewer wants to be there and are already interested in investigating the brand or product. As a result, these videos can be made longer to include more information.

“We look at where it’s going to go online and then we craft it for that, it’s not sort of like we make online videos one size fits all and that’s why we don’t do the TV thing because our videos are crafted for a specific medium.”

There is a great battle for eyeballs being waged online and Forman says Wrestler is in it to win it.

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